By Sushil Kutty
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait in all likelihood grew up to tales of the Tikait daredevilry at Delhi’s Boat Club when the firebrand Mahendra Singh Tikait led a 7-lakh strong army of farmers and laid siege to India Gate. Mahendra Singh Tikait left this world for the other-world leaving behind a pale shadow divided equally between sons Rakesh Tikait and his elder brother Naresh Tikait.
The ponderous Rakesh Tikait has so far been unable to match his father in the sheer electricity of his presence. The elder Tikait would have brought Delhi to a grinding halt on any day of the week and he wouldn’t have tried to disrobe the Red Fort to do that.
And then, Rakesh Tikat wept, something Mahendra Singh Tikait would have taken the cane to. The Chaudhary of the Baliyan Khap till his death, Mahendra Singh Tikait, would have instead gone to town with “Sar Katta Sakte Hain, Magar Sar Jukha Sakte Nahi.”
Rakesh Tikait is not the chip of the old block. But the Jats of Western Uttar Pradesh could not bear the insult to Jat pride. They had never seen a “Tikait cry”. So, they arrived on tractors in the hundreds of thousands and a whole new protest was born—the rest, like they say, is history!
Rakesh Tikait stuck to his guns at Delhi’s Gazipur Border. In the glare of the TV cameras. Giving interviews and positioning himself as the sole farmers’ leader, the face of the farmers’ agitation. The value of Rakesh Tikait to the farmers’ protests was that he single handedly kept the protests alive with his antics.
The Gurnam Singh Chadunis and the Yogendra Yadavs would have gone, returned to their villages long before if it wasn’t for Rakesh Tikait. To city-slickers, Tikait is a rustic villager. To the Western Uttar Pradesh farmer he’s the Chaudhary of the Baliyan Khap whose word is law!
Actually, it is his brother Naresh Tikait who is “Chaudhary”, but Rakesh cried himself to Chaudhary-ship! December 15, 2021, Rakesh Tikait returned to his village Sisauli in Muzaffarnagar district and the villagers gave him a grand reception. Straight off he cautioned the region’s villagers at a Mahapanchayat in Kairana village—the scene of the exodus of Hindus. “It is not a palayan (exodus), it is a government plan.”
With that Rakesh Tikait is no longer farmers’ leader alone. He would have liked the farmers’ agitation to continue. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi outsmarted the opposition with the simple trick of “if you can’t beat them, join them” and repealed the three farm laws—and Rakesh Tikait and his farmer pals lost the momentum.
Now, too close to the five states’ elections, Tikait has to play his hand—it’s now or never. Tikait’s political ambitions haven’t remained hidden. He lost his deposit at earlier attempts. Now, he is back in the arena. But Rakesh Tikait is yet to decide which party/front he should ally with, the Congress or Samajwadi Party?
The Samajwadi Party is leading a front of small parties, and Rakesh Tikait, by all standards, is a “small party.” At Sisauli, his home village, back after 383 days on the road at Ghazipur crossing, Rakesh Tikait said the “andolan” continues.
Rakesh Tikait’s relevance hangs in balance and depends on “andolans.” The other kisan leaders who took part in the farmers’ protests did not yearn for political relevance or rejuvenation, except maybe Gurnam Singh Chaduni. The rest of the farmers’ leaders went back to wait for MSP to become law.
Samajwadi Party leader and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, however, is aware of Tikait’s yearning, and he has asked Tikait to join the Samajwadi Party and contest the elections, start what he had set out to do, which is to use the momentum to enter politics.
Tikait has now said that a “call on UP polls” will be taken after the model code of conduct is in place. Till then, Rakesh Tikait would be spreading the word in Western Uttar Pradesh that he does not like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the BJP should be defeated in Western UP.
At the Kairana ‘mahapanchayat” Rakesh Tikait warned people to be alert about BJP’s machinations. He made his intentions clear when he said the 383 days of protests so far were “training for bigger andolans” in the future. With MSP still hanging fire, Tikait will get his chance to have a go at protests again, and again. He still has a chance to do a Mahendra Singh Tikait on Delhi—prove to Jat-land once and for all that he is his father’s son! (IPA Service)